November 8, 2019 / 6:28 AM / 11 days ago

Australian shares steady as energy gains offset gold plunge; NZ up

* Gold stocks tumble 5.5% to close at over 4-month low

* REA Group’s disappointing Q1 result drags real-estate cos

* Australian benchmark logs 0.8% weekly gain, NZ adds 1.1% (Updates to close)

Nov 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed little changed on Friday, as gains in energy stocks offset a sell-off in gold miners after price of the precious metal slumped overnight.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.04% or 2.5 points to 6,724.1 at the close of trade. The index posted a weekly gain of 0.8%.

U.S. stock indexes closed at record highs and safe-haven demand for gold tumbled on Wednesday amid signals of progress in trade talks, however, the enthusiasm did not spill into Asian markets.

News that the “phase one” trade deal faces fierce internal opposition in the White House and from outside advisers weighed on most Asian bourses.

In Australia, losses were dominated by gold miners, which had their worst session in almost three years following a 2% plunge in the precious metal’s prices earlier on Thursday.

Newcrest Mining, the country’s biggest-listed gold miner, slumped 4.6%, while Northern Star Resources lost 6.6%.

For the week, the gold index dropped nearly 8%, its worst weekly performance since mid-September, as rising hopes for a Sino-U.S. trade deal sapped demand for safe-haven assets.

Shares of land developers and real-estate companies were also lower after property classifieds advertiser REA Group forecast lower listings for the first-half of 2020 and posted lower first-quarter revenue.

REA lost 3.6%, while peer Domain Holdings Australia slipped 2.8%. Real estate investment trust Dexus dropped 2.3% to hit an over 9-month low.

REA’s warning showed that while the country’s housing market has displayed early signs of recovery in the last few months, it is yet to have an effect on companies earnings.

Building materials maker Boral had also warned of a weaker first half earlier this week.

Offering some relief, energy stocks rose rose on strength in oil prices. Beach Energy tacked on 1.7%, while Santos firmed 1.5%.

The country’s biggest independent oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum rose 2% after it raised the estimate for dry gas reserves at its Scarborough project, which it counts as a major growth driver in the next decade.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.8%, or 81.92 points, to finish the session at 10,876.98. The index recorded a weekly gain of 1.1%.

Construction firm Fletcher Building rose 5.6%, outweighing a 1.4% drop in dairy giant a2 Milk Company. (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

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